Buck Showalter had a hard time formulating a lineup Wednesday, with more bats he believes warrant playing time than there was playing time to dish out.
The Mets manager’s hope, in the aftermath of calling up hot-hitting top prospect Mark Vientos, is that the lineup card only gets increasingly difficult to fill out.
In summoning the slugging Vientos, whose bat the club could no longer ignore, the Mets have created an odd roster alignment with two players (Vientos and Daniel Vogelbach) who don’t have a true position.
But they can afford to sacrifice flexibility if Vientos continues hitting like he was in Syracuse.
The 23-year-old demolished Triple-A pitching, posting a 1.104 OPS with 13 home runs in 38 games, which is especially tantalizing for a Mets offensive attack that has struggled, particularly with power.
Vientos, who started at third base in his season debut against the Rays at Citi Field, arrived in Queens with a poor defensive reputation as a corner infielder.
Brett Baty has handled third and Pete Alonso is entrenched at first base, so his best bet for playing time would come at DH, where Vogelbach has hit well against righty pitchers.
How much will Vientos play?
“We’ll see. It’s kind of up to him,” Showalter said of Vientos, whose righty bat crushed both righties and lefties in the minors this season. “Play better, play good, and we’re always looking for ways to get good players in there.”
What is Vientos expecting?
“To be playing,” Vientos said before his 17th career game. “To be ready.”
Vientos debuted at the end of last season, when he primarily served as a DH or pinch hitter and virtually only played against lefties.
He earned his way to a debut as a big-time power bat but one who whiffed too often, striking out 28.6 percent of the time with Syracuse last year.
He entered the offseason with a goal of cutting down on that number and has become more selective at the plate. He struck out in 20.5 percent of his Triple-A plate appearances this season.
“Instead of chasing and swinging at pitches the pitchers want me to swing at, waiting for my pitch and not trying to miss it,” said Vientos, who hit .167 with one home run in 16 major league games last season. “I feel like I’m in a better spot, like I’m a lot better than I was last year.”
The Mets are open to a savior.
Their offense did not hit a home run in their entire weekend, four-game series split in Washington, and the attack has lacked a power bat like Vientos’.
But where he finds time becomes a major question around the club.
Wednesday, he played third base against an opposing lefty (Josh Fleming) as lefty-hitting Baty received a day off and switch-hitting Eduardo Escobar played second base.
The Mets will see a righty Thursday (Taj Bradley), which normally would mean Baty plays third, Jeff McNeil plays second, either Mark Canha or Tommy Pham plays left field and Vogelbach serves as the DH.
If Vientos performs, he could take away time from any of the above, apart from McNeil.
“Obviously [Vientos has] been swinging the bat well at that level and [against] that level of pitching,” said Showalter, whose club optioned Luis Guillorme as the corresponding roster move. “We’ll see if it plays up here.”
If it does, Showalter would have a lineup problem that he craves — and would have one more piece for the future.
The win-now Mets likely will field lineups soon containing three highly touted rookies in Vientos, Baty and Francisco Alvarez.
The three overlapped plenty going through the system and took batting practice together hours before the game.
“A good reunion,” Vientos said. “I’m glad to be back with all of them. … I said, ‘What’s up,’ and just went back to chatting like we were down there.
“Just glad to be back.”
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